Mixed-Method Approaches to Social Network Analysis

“Mixed-Method Approaches to Social Network Analysis” describes the various takes on Social Network Analysis (SNA) using both quantitative and qualitative data. Whereas quantitative data is used in traditional research and allows to “map and measure certain aspects of social relations in a systematic and precise fashion”, quantitative data brings the specific benefit of “(adding) an awareness of process, change, content and context” (Edwards, 5). Using both approaches, or mixed-methods, allows the researcher to get an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’ view of the subject.

When reading the article, I was struck by the void in which the social networks exist. Despite using the distinctly spatial language of mapping networks, there is a lack of spatiality in the discussion. If we remember Tobler’s first law of geography, “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things”, distance should be included in all networks. Without weighted relationships or spatial and temporal data, the networks described in the article seemed superficial.

GIScience could take SNA to new dimension: space and (with the right Temporal GIS) time. GIS already has a network analysis function, which could be used to link personal ties between individuals.

With many social networks now only existing in the virtual world, space takes on new meanings (as we saw with spatial cyberinfrastructure). Does physical location then matter in these networks? I would argue that it does, as it is loaded with qualitative data (social and political context, intent, etc) and quantitative data (the coordinates).


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